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Death of the Desktop

September 29, 2014
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Every change in consumer product behavior comes with some pain on the part of technology professionals. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and RF have evolved over the years and we have tackled the issues of security and device management. The average consumer can now set up their Wi-Fi router and they are able to set up SSID broadcast, and WPA or WEP encryption. We are at a point with Wi-Fi that most users expect to be connected anywhere they go. General Motors now offers Wi-Fi hotspots in their cars.

There is no doubt that we are mobile. When we get home the last thing we want to do is sit down in front of a computer. The whole “keyboard/mouse” thing seems like we are at work or away from the rest of the family. Both Microsoft and Apple are shifting their efforts to touch type input, voice input, finger swipe motions and cloud base storage. When you go to a restaurant you see families gathered together at the table in silence with their heads bowed, not in prayer, but intently reading their social media and email.

Your desktop is nothing more than a large motherboard that connects video output and various input devices. It also contains a hard drive and DVD/CD read/writer. If you rank order the use of the home desktop you would find that the majority is email; photo, video edit and storage; web browsing and social networking. Even gaming is shifted almost entirely to consoles to take advantage of multiplayer platform connectivity.  With desktop replacements averaging 3-5 years, you have to ask the question: Am I going to spend a large sum of money on a new home desktop? According to a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, PC sales have been declining dramatically. (

The trend has been almost a free fall since 2010 and much can be directly attributed to mobile product launches. Gartner stated that Tablets will overtake PC sales in 2015 (

Impact to Health Information Technology Professionals.

Given that C-Suite strategists are either tweaking strategic plans or having to forecast out five years into the future. The first question we should be asking is, “How will desktop PC’s fit the future workflow in healthcare?” New construction of healthcare facilities should also be taking this into account. 

Ten years ago, I had to make the argument that employees are trained at home to use keyboard/mouse combinations and they would adapt quickly to point and click GUI screen interfaces. Vendors were still pushing green screen character cell “function key” input. Today, you see web browser based applications with point and click navigation as a standard. You are also seeing more use of thin client boxes that allow users to access applications stored on their corporate servers. These are essentially boxes that allow for the connection of monitor, keyboard and mouse with no internally stored applications. The next logical step is thin clients for tablets. Dell and other manufactures have already release this solution which enables users to run Health Information Systems applications from a tablet.

So what does this mean for the future of “patient registration or point of service care?” No more check in desks. Your staff would be equipped with a tablet, so they can greet the patient anywhere or have a lounge type room for privacy. More mobile specific applications (apps) for patient registration and check-in will be available from your Health Information Software vendor. These apps would be on a tablet handed to the patient the same way a clipboard is today, or they would be available for download by the patient on their own mobile device. 

Tablet style kiosks would be given to the patient at key points of the care process. You could complete the checkout process anywhere, push out surveys and schedule follow up visits. Of course we will always have outliers, such as character cell charge entry and dot matrix printers in the back end business office.

Impact to the home consumers.

Within the next ten years large screen “home” tablets will be the norm and they will come with a desktop 45 degree mount if you needed to work there. Of course you could detach it and use it in your living room or bedroom since home Wi-Fi routers will have standard “home cloud (solid state drive) storage” and all printers will have Wi-Fi connectivity. Expect CDs and DVDs to shrink to half the size and fit nicely into a slot on the side of a tablet. Your software will install on your home cloud much like a thin client at work and be available to the entire family. You will no longer purchase a “brick” style desktop, with keyboard and mouse.

Of course, there will be outliers here as well. These outliers will also be the people with a phone land-line still connected to their house. So make sure to take a picture of your mouse and desktop PC before you throw it away, you may need to explain to your grandchildren what they were.